Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tough Mommy Moment

I know it's been a while since I posted here.....we had several computer issues that made it VERY difficult to write a post here (or anywhere).  But the computer's fixed and I have 15 minutes to sit down, so I want to pass along a story....

School has been in session for about 12 days so far.  We have been seeing ups and downs for all 3 kids.  But today I want to tell you about something that's been going on with Ballerina......

When kindergarteners (through second grade) at our school walk into school in the morning, they congregate in the "All Purpose Room".  They line up with their classes, socialize a bit and wait to be escorted to class. The kindergarteners started joining the first and second graders on the 2nd day of school.  On that day, Ballerina was escorted to the end of the line.  This way, she was able to hold the hand of a teacher to ensure there would be no elopement (we haven't had an issue with this for quite a while, but with a new school and new situations, you can never tell).  She was successfully escorted to class and a new routine was established.

When I say a new routine, I mean a new ROUTINE.  For Ballerina, we have a saying in our house...."Once makes a pattern".  Every detail of that procedure was cemented in her mind.  Ever since, she's been walking into the All-Purpose Room and walking to the back of the line, leaving plenty of space for her classmates to come in before her.  And, as more students arrive, she's been sliding back, making sure she's the last one on line.  I've been walking in with her and encouraging her to move forward and simply get in line when she arrives with her classmates arriving later to file in behind her.  But she really wanted to stay at the end of the line.  Since she wasn't causing trouble with this, everyone allowed her to get away with this.

Well, now it's the 3rd week of school and jobs are being assigned to each student in the class.  This includes the job of the "caboose".  The "caboose" is simply the last person on line, and everyone takes a turn there.  And, I have learned that her need to be last in line is not only at this first transition of the day, but every time the class lines up to transition from one place to another.  Because of that, we need to put a stop to the behavior.

Yesterday morning, I decided to start trying to put an end to this.  I got on the line myself, sitting "criss cross applesauce" (which is very uncomfortable to this nearly 41-year-old overweight Mom) and encouraged her to sit in my lap (with the approval of the para who was patrolling in the room).  She did this, and I thought we had made some real progress.  About 2 minutes later, another classmate arrived and sat behind me.  Ballerina kicked and screamed (which I [stupidly] was unprepared for) and she got up again and moved to the back of the line.  So, since she had experienced the success, I had to stop for the moment.  I went over to her and told her that she can NOT always be the last person on line.....that the middle of the line is fun.  I pointed out some of her classmates that she either talks about at home or who I have come to know from other means and how they were sitting and talking nicely together.  "This is what big kindergarten boys and girls do!" I explained and asked her if she was a girl or a boy (a favorite game of hers).  And I told her that I would see her later and left.

When I picked her up from school yesterday, her teacher and I had a short conversation about putting an end to this pattern.  I suggested trying to get there early enough so that she would be first on line so she still wouldn't be sandwiched between other children (which may have been part of the problem as she really isn't capable of articulating that kind of situation to me).  But I can't get into the school until 8:30.  There is a day care center on school property and those children are already in the school by that time.  There are 2 students in her class that attend that center, and they are always first on line.  So, despite knowing this and trying it this morning, we were still going to be the 3rd student on line, at least.

So, I did what I could do as a parent that I can't have the teachers or the paras do.  I forced the issue.  I sat down and had Ballerina sit on my lap.  I was restraining her (but not doing anything to cause harm).  I asked the next student to please sit behind Ballerina and continue the line behind us.  But Ballerina was going to do what was expected of her.....she was going to take her place in the middle of the line.  I was hoping that, once she realized I meant business, that she would back down.  But she didn't.  I was able to stop her (I think and hope) from kicking the other students around us (at the expense of myself) and she screamed most of the 15 minutes until it was time for her to be escorted to class.  Her teacher came over and I apologized, but told her that once I started, I couldn't stop.  Fortunately, she agreed and made sure that Ballerina went all the way to class in the middle of the line (despite her desperate attempts to migrate to the back).

This process attracted MANY stares, by both the other students and the paras.  By the time the teachers arrived, things seemed to have settled down a bit.  I felt terribly guilty because, like I said, I was doing something that would be illegal for the school staff to do.  I briefly talked to one of the paras trying to explain the situation.  She told me not to worry.....she too has an Autistic child and seeing what I was going through brought back painful memories.  She knows that sometimes it's necessary to force a situation and that I wasn't doing anything that would hurt my child.  I was VERY grateful to hear that because I was worried that, before the end of the day, Child Protective Services would be sitting at my front door to take my children away.

Also, Music Man's teacher came over to me (as I was a burned out bundle of nerves after Ballerina had left the room) and told me that it was OK and that she was walking to class, not quietly, but not fighting either.  I have sent a note to Ballerina's teacher to find out how this affected her day and have not yet heard back.  Hopefully, I didn't set a terrible tone for the rest of the day.

Sometimes things are more difficult than they need to be.  I know what I did was right because if I didn't do it, the situation would never change.  And I know Ballerina.  I know that sometimes you really have to force a situation to happen.  But I hate it when it happens.  And I hate it even more when I have to do it in public.  And it's even worse when I have to do this in front of her peers who may remember watching this for years to come.


ADDENDUM:
When I picked up Ballerina from school, Mrs. R. (her classroom teacher) came up to me to tell me something......after recess, the class lines up to come inside to return to class.  Ballerina, as expected, went immediately to the back of the line.  She saw Mrs. R. and took her place in the middle of the line!!!!  She still tried to migrate to the back as they were walking to class, but she was walking in the middle of the line without much verbal complaint.  I still plan to keep pushing this tomorrow and Friday, but the message may be sinking in faster than I had anticipated.

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